Now that the dust has settled after the leadership debate, we can review the main talking points, and consider what we have learnt, since the leadership contest started.
So, firstly, who won the TV debate?
The general consensus seems to be that Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall had the most impact.
But, having watched the TV debate, and followed the resulting arguments, the two most important questions for the Labour Party, and the answers to them, have become really clear:
What do we want?
- We want a fairer society
What do we need?
- We need to convince voters that we can create a strong economy.
I know, I’m currently just stating the bleedin’ obvious, so let’s break that down a little:
We want a fairer society.
We have always wanted a fairer society.
In the TV debate, the audience’s reaction to Jeremy Corbyn demonstrated that it is not just Labour supporters- most voters want a fairer society.
Jeremy Corbyn’s focus on inequality and injustice has been really pleasing to many Labour supporters, as these issues seem to have been neglected by many Labour MPs (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1dqn4TO ).
The popular impact of Corbyn’s call for a fairer society has led many of his supporters to claim that he is therefore the leader we want.
But, what do we need?
If we want a fairer society, we need to win the next election.
Unfortunately, to win an election, arguments for a fairer society will not be enough on their own; the recent election result has proved that- as the saying goes: ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’
It has now become accepted wisdom; that Labour lost the election because they didn’t manage to refute the Conservatives’ claim; that Labour’s overspending caused the financial crash (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1drc6NS ).
What we need, is a leader who can convince the electorate that Labour can be trusted with the economy. Is that Jeremy Corbyn?
For many Labour supporters, Jeremy Corbyn represents the true heart of the Labour movement (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1AYjVFA ). His excellent speech and the ‘rock-star’ reaction it received at the austerity march in London demonstrated this and showed that the left is still a hugely popular and important force in British politics. However, all that really shows about Corbyn is that he is very good at preaching to the converted. That stirring speech may have wowed the crowd, but would it have changed the mind of those swing voters who doubt Labour’s economic competence? Whilst Corbyn’s values and politics are undeniably admirable, he is not known for having a strong economic plan.
But more importantly, Jeremy Corbyn is just not electable.
Think about it: many people thought (Red) Ed Miliband was given a hard time by the right-wing press. Corbyn is seen as being far more radical and left-wing than Ed Miliband, how do you think he will be portrayed in the media?
They will slaughter him.
In fact, the slaughter has already begun, with suggestions of his links to the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah already made public.
No, although we can definitely admire Corbyn, he is not the right choice for leader. Corbyn would instead, be a great choice for a key shadow cabinet role, so as to ensure that traditional Labour values remain an important focus for the parliamentary party.
What we need in a leader, is someone who will not only pursue Labour’s traditional goal of a fairer society, but will also be convincing in their claim to be able to create and manage a strong economy.
A strong economy and a fairer society, that’s what we have to be all about, that’s what has to be our focus and our ‘brand’, isn’t it?
That being the case, there is only one candidate who is convincing on both of these issues- Liz Kendall.
Liz Kendall is convincing, and most importantly, credible, in her desire to balance the books and create a strong economy.
She is convincing, and most importantly, passionate, in her desire to reduce inequality; to create equal opportunities and greater social mobility.
Not only that; Liz Kendall is a convincing and dynamic public speaker, who has the all-important charisma that Ed Miliband lacked, which cost him so dearly and lost Labour so many votes in the election.
However, despite this, Kendall is still struggling to win over the left of the Party, because she is seen as being too right-wing. This is mainly due to poor reporting from the press.
The media have sought to pigeon-hole Kendall as the Blairite candidate, for her focus on wealth creation and deficit reduction. She has even been accused of being ‘Tory’ for this reason. These labels are both lazy and inaccurate.
Liz Kendall’s focus on wealth creation is seen as right-wing, but this right-wing focus is based on left-wing goals; her aim is wealth creation, for wealth re-distribution. She wants a strong economy, so as to enable greater investment in the public services that benefit us all.
As for being ‘Tory’- for her desire to reduce the deficit, this ignores the huge difference between the Tories and Liz Kendal:
The Tories aim to reduce the deficit, by cutting public services.
Liz Kendal seeks to reduce the deficit, in order to invest in public services.
She points out that we are currently spending more money on servicing our debt, than we are spending on education. Reducing the deficit will free up huge amounts of money, which can then be used to repair the devastating damage done to our public services by the Tories.
I previously stated that our message and our ‘brand’ should be: ‘a strong economy, and a fairer society’.
Liz Kendall’s approach improves on that. If Liz Kendall was our leader, Labour’s message, and it’s ‘brand’ would be: ‘a strong economy for a fairer society’.
With a message like that, she can appeal to the left and right of the Party, and also the left and right of the electorate: to all of the Party, and all of the country.
‘A strong economy, for a fairer society’: that’s a brand and a banner that the Party can unite behind.
That’s a brand and a banner that can unite the country.
This piece began by asking what we want and what we need.
What we want and need; is a convincing and charismatic leader, who can unite the Party and appeal to the whole of the country.
Only one candidate answers this description, it’s obvious;
It has to be Liz Kendall.